Our Blessings

Our Blessings

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shoe Boxes

We've been packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child off and on for years. It was a fun tradition with our boys and now our girls are all about it! As we continue to work through trauma - hope is a major component. First and foremost we have hope in Jesus. He is the Healer, Redeemer, Savior, Defender and Protector. As we focus on the truths and promises in scripture - our girl has also found great hope in looking forward with great joy at the idea of God using all of this yuck for His glory - He is growing such a HUGE heart of compassion within her. She absolutely adores the idea of serving others. So, while we can't overwhelm our schedule with too much right now - we have added in something now and then that allows us to be His hands and feet to bless others and bring them hope. 

Filling shoeboxes is one of those ways. Such a simple act of love can make such a huge difference in the lives of children without hope. Each of our girls selects a gender and age range. This year - they all chose to pack a box for a girl their own age. First, we sat down and watched a handful of the videos online about assembling shoeboxes, as well as seeing children receive them. SOOO precious! One video seemed almost hand-selected for our teen. (As so many other things in her life lately - so love our Jesus!) The story was of that of a young girl whose life was painfully ripped apart and then Jesus was introduced to her...through a Shoebox. (Along with the goodies that are packed into each box - Samaritan's Purse also tucks a booklet inside that shares the Gospel!  Today, this girl is the one reading and teaching the other children in the orphanage from this booklet. A few of us cried (I bawled) watching this video. Oh my how powerful the gospel is - transforming lives, giving hope and healing. 

Then we took our girls out shopping to pick out the items for their boxes. We chose some practical things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and wash cloths along with toys, candy, art supplies and more. This was so much fun. They hand-selected each item with love and talked repeatedly about how they wished they could see their "friend" open their box. 

We did add pictures of our family and each girl also tucked in a picture of themselves along with a letter introducing themselves - and encouraging their friend. We included a return address just in case these children have the means to respond.

They had great fun assembling their boxes. Then we added labels that will allow us to track their boxes and see where they end up being delivered to. Seems in the past when we've helped volunteer at the Processing Center - all of the boxes from our area go to South and Central America. SO fun! The girls had such blast doing this. I see God growing such generous hearts within our daughters. We have been working through birthdays each month this fall. Viv was 3 in September, Ren was 7 in October, Loe turned 11 in November and Angie will be 15 in a few weeks. Each birthday the girls have taken the money they have (including gift cards they received as gifts) to buy a new gift for their sister's birthday. They beg me daily for about a month to take them shopping. So, it was great fun to watch them assemble these boxes and have such excitement at the thought of hearing back from their new "friends." 

Trevor zipped them to a drop-off location last night (at the last minute because that's how we roll). We look forward to volunteering at the Processing Center in the coming years. Kids have to be at least 13. We took the boys down once or twice and it was such fun! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reflections on seasons and beauty and hope

The girls have been begging to go somewhere to play in the leaves since our yard has smaller trees with not enough leaves to pile up and jump in. 

 And that's what it's really all about - right? 

So, we loaded them up with a rake and headed to the park.   

Helps to have a variety of HLF t-shirts in their wardrobe. Fall colors - check.

I honestly have a hard time concentrating while driving. (I stopped 3-4 times while driving through a neighborhood the other day to take pics of trees...the girls thought I was a bit crazy.)

The colors and the angle of the sun...literally take my breath away. 

It happens over and over and over again in the fall. 

Angie had watched kids playing in piles of leaves in movies but never in real life. Though we had some tough moments - she LOVED it!

During this season we continually weigh out the pros and cons of each outing, event, activity, relationship and pretty much everything else. With newly adopted kiddos of any age - a predictable routine can really bring security and normalcy. 

Just look at Exhibit A

Ha! She is normally a goofball and we wouldn't want her any other way!!

Back to seasons...both in nature and in our life. There are honestly more triggers than one can imagine that comes with a life that was filled with so much trauma. Weather, holidays, strong emotions (positive and negative), scents, memories, expressions, pain, relationships and so many more.

So, we try to establish some safe, secure predictability to our week. 

Allowing for the occasional new adventure. 

Knowing that there might be a melt down or tough reaction.

We take the risk not only for our other kids that we know won't be triggered by certain types of outings, but also to help build positive new memories for everyone. 

For me - being out in God's creation during this time of year is absolutely therapeutic. 

It also gives everyone fresh air...


and plenty of exercise which helps in so many ways! 

As we walk through this challenging season filled with therapy, doctor's visits, hours of listening to the horror stories...

All of us enjoy this added into our schedule!

While we have others coming alongside us to help us walk through these challenges...

we know that our future and the future of our kids lie in the hands of God. 

We pray every single day for total healing. 

And we believe that He is going to do that!

But, sometimes it seems like He allows us to go through a process of strengthening our faith.

And gives us HOPE that does not disappoint!

A time of working all things together for good even when we can't see it yet, though we often glimpse it along the way.

Trusting the God who could create such beauty is undoubtedly trustworthy to heal and restore our precious girls. And make something beautiful of their lives.

And though we have days that are draining, scary, challenging and exhausting - I am determined to see the beauty along the way as He's given us a front row seat to see the mighty things He can do! Our HOPE is in the one who performs miracles, who loves us beyond explanation, who provides, strengthens, pours out grace and invites us to be a part of His plans. 

Just as I have to work at not looking forward to the next adoption, move, vacation, etc., and missing out on all He has for me each day - I am praying for that same strength, hope and joy in Him as we pour into these girls and live the life He's called us to right here - right now. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hope Does Not Disappoint (a day in the mountains)

Had the gift of a day away in the mountains. Time to see the sun rise on my way out of town. To enjoy the brilliant shades of autumn color. I love so many things about every season. In the fall I love crisp air, crunchy leaves, pumpkins, baking, scarves and all of that good stuff. But, I also can't get enough of the rich, deep blue sky.  The way the sun shines on the changing leaves from more of an angle in the sky.  It makes everything more beautiful. It's so pretty that I hardly notice when suddenly it's over and the last leaves have fallen...and suddenly it's cold and brown and not so pretty. But, when the days are shorter and colder I switch my focus to indoors with warm bread in the oven, cozy socks, the fireplace going, snuggles while reading books and watching movies and playing games. Then suddenly it's time to celebrate Christmas and soon after spring is on it's way. OK...not really so soon after here in Colorado. Spring sometimes feels like it's a long time coming. But, the promise is always there...hope for new life, brand new shiny leaves and flowers and days at the park will return again. 

Life with 6 kiddos of varying ages is busy. But, this season we are in has been filled with some extra challenges. It's stretching us and our faith. We continually remind each other that God is bigger. Adoption is a beautiful miracle - no doubt. But, it's always good for us to remember that it is necessary because it follows tragic loss...of a birth parent, culture and very often so much trauma it absolutely tears your heart open. We are walking through some painful, challenging times with our girls. I feel like our initial time adjusting this time was a bit like summer - some hot, sticky moments - but over all filled with good stuff. Then we moved into a season where things were changing and losing the vibrant colors of  life and growth. We knew it might be hard. We took the advice we so often give others - prepare for the worst, hope for the best and cover it all in lots and lots of prayer. 

I drove up through the Big Thompson Canyon, which flooded a year ago and brought devastation and loss to many families, homes and businesses. Each time I go up it looks a bit more back to 'normal.' A new normal - literally as the flood water cut new paths, changing the shape of mountain sides, tearing up miles of road and bridges. Along the main highway - if you didn't know it happened - there would be many parts of the drive that it wouldn't be so obvious anymore. However, today I took the road through Glenhaven so I could support the general store and buy a couple of their famous cinnamon rolls! (I'm just doing my part!) That drive was a whole different story. The paved road that used to have a gently flowing river is now a muddy, dirt road with all kinds of flood debris along the sides and giant trees uprooted and laying on the sides of the road. 

Yet...right in the midst of all of this devastation - I am surprised by beauty. The gorgeous trees who refused to fall - showing off their fall colors. The people - still working so hard to restore and rebuild their roads, bridges, homes and businesses. Standing in line for my cinnamon roll - I listened to the locals talk about a town meeting tonight and it was so clear how much this little community has had to really pull together over this past year. As I drove on up to Estes Park - I thought how the flood waters wouldn't have been so damaging if everybody knew it was going to happen - years in advance. They could have built bridges higher and stronger. Reinforced roads and homes. Moved the earth to help direct the river and all of it's abundance. But, they didn't know...when a mountain range gets more rain over a few days then is usual in an entire year - all of that water has to go somewhere - downhill and fast leaving much devastation in it's wake. 

It made me think how our lives seem so different right now, too. If we would have known exactly what we might be dealing with - we might have felt like we could prepare better. But, we are finding our new normal as we deal with trauma and anxiety that has cut through our lives like flood waters. We are attempting to clean up the debris of challenging and scary behaviors, bad dreams, PTSD and more. We spend a lot of time listening, reassuring, monitoring, driving to appointments, reading and praying through out each and every day. This combined with our normal day to day duties has been a lot. We don't know exactly how all of this will end. 

But, this we know...He who calls us is faithful. And our hope is in Him!

Today my bible study spoke about 1 Thessalonians 1:3 - We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Oh - so timely. I love it when Jesus speaks to me so clearly in several places - confirming His message for me.

"We have access to the Holy Spirit welling up in us like a spring. Tapping into Him requires deliberation and cooperation so God can love through us. Like me, you've probably asked Him to love through you, then fizzled out within the hour. Here's the catch: we cannot love when we perceive ourselves as unloved. We cannot offer to others what we don't possess...

Jude 21 says, "keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." That means practicing the mindset of being profusely loved by God. We must invite our souls to plunge into His love like a dolphin romping in the sea. Actively engaging in His unending, extravagant, no-strings-attached affection for you is not narcissism. Its necessity. it can mean our survival when we're faced with the loveless." 
~ Beth Moore - Children of the Day

We spend so much time loving our girls by listening, praying and helping them and some days seem a bit better - like we're making progress. Then suddenly we're thrown another loop and the hopelessness can start to seep in. The counselors say we are doing everything right and to hang in there. But, I know there are times we fail. Times we snap or get tired and cranky. Times when we get overwhelmed and operate out of our own strength and resources. Somedays I feel downright unqualified for this job. 

Then I read this quote from Oswald Chambers...

 "To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children." 

Oh how I long for God to be able to use me in the lives of His Children - my children. 
He is their hope. Spring will come again...we can count on it and we can have hope. Hope in Him...in his strength, love and redeeming power. Hope that He will restore what was lost and exchange beauty for ashes. In Him we have hope...that makes all the difference.

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:5